It's often said of radio that 'the pictures are better'. While the sound comes out of the speaker or earphones, the images are formed in a listener’s imagination.
Radio, more than television or newspapers, really is a visual medium. And it’s also more intimate.
That might sound strange, but think of the last time you listened to a sports broadcast or news report from the scene of an incident. Chances are the reporter painted vivid pictures and described what was happening in such intimate detail that you felt like you were there.
That’s why, whenever you do a radio interview, whether it’s live or pre-recorded, you need to use your voice to set the tone and your words to engage the listener.
Being interviewed requires you to perform more than you normally would, so emphasise some words, alter the tone of your voice occasionally and be warm, sincere and convincing.
If you are dull and monotone we’ll want to turn the dial or tune out altogether. But if you can share anecdotes, analogies and stories that turn abstract or technical concepts into ideas we all understand, then you will be much more engaging.
A good way to help you get a simple but effective message across to a broad audience is to imagine that your elderly grandmother is listening. How would you explain something technical or complicated to her without being patronising?
Thinking of a radio interview as an intimate conversation with a relative or friend, and not a conversation with thousands, is one of the best ways to help you relax and become more conversational.
If you are the type that gets nervous, and let’s face it we all do occasionally, the uneasiness will disappear when the first words have been spoken and the stories start to flow.
Remember also that radio is a momentary medium: your words are broadcast and then they disappear into the ether.
So it’s vital that you reinforce your key message a few times throughout an interview by repeating a word or phrase so that it stands out.
A good radio interview will keep your audience alert and listening. So with that in mind, here are a few basic tips to consider before you next go on the air:
Know your audience Spend some time before the interview identifying your audience and crafting a message to suit that audience. Different stations cater to different demographics.
Plan a sound bite Come up with one short, memorable, colourful phrase that you can use. Sound bites must seem spontaneous and natural and not sound rehearsed. Practice reading your sound bite aloud. Change whatever sounds awkward.
Avoid jargon You may know what those industry-specific terms mean but the listeners at home probably don’t. Drop the acronyms and keep your language plain and simple.
Tell a story Strengthen your points with stories, anecdotes and humour so that they are more memorable and entertaining.
Vary how you speak If you sound monotone the listeners may doze off. Inject some colour into your voice and alter your tone to emphasise an important point.
Smile When you smile your voice smiles, and it will sound more appealing and personable to the listeners. Many people who tune in at the beginning of your segment might not be there at the end; and other listeners will join half-way through. So repeat your key message a few times in various ways.
Don’t talk over the top If the announcer or reporter interrupts, let them. Use the time to take a breather and plan your next response. If you continue to talk over the top of the announcer it will sound aggressive and listeners will be so distracted they won’t hear your message.
Don't Oversell Remember you are on air to provide an insight or reaction, you’re not there for a blatant plug. That’s what ads are for, so sell the dream instead.
Keep it friendly Sometimes on talkback radio you might get a tricky or provocative question from the host or even callers. Be honest and friendly, even if it feels like you are under attack.